NAPLES, Fla. — The Naples City Councilapproved the special event application for Naples Pride Fest on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 5-2 with council members Terry Hutchison and Ted Blakenship voting against the application.
The meeting started at 8:30 a.m. and public comment lasted for hours with more than 70 speakers. The month-long debate hyperfocused on drag show performers and whether or not the event should be held at Cambier Park.
"I think the Naples pride fest has a right to be here," said Kris Schmeckpeper-Kobzing, a supporter of the event.
"The community that is coming out in droves today does not want this to happen in our community," said Teddy Collins, an opponent of the event.
Many opponents of the drag show cite religious beliefs as to why they do not want the event with drag.
"Drag shows for little children is completely inappropriate," Collins said.
"I think City Council is inviting the wrath of God, like Ian wasn't enough," said Debbie Grant, an event opponent.
Naples Pride President Cori Craciun says there is a great misunderstanding of the event. Supporters emphasizing for the LGBTQ+ community and allies, says it's about promoting empowerment and fostering equality.
"I'm happy as I can be," Craciun said.
"I think it's people's lack of fundamental understanding of what drag shows really are or even a pride celebration," said Susanna Tocco, a supporter of Naples Pride.
Opponents also claimed the even sexualizes children. At times, some described it as grooming children to be sexually abused. Naples Police testified allegations of lewd and lascivious behavior last year were found to be unsubstantiated.
"We knew we didn't do anything wrong and I'm glad that the City COuncil saw that," Carciun said.
Research shows LGBTQ+ community members are no more likely to molest children than straight people. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports 93% of children sexual abusers know the victim, and only 7% are strangers.
The event is scheduled to take place at Cambier Park on June 10, 2023.
This application vote has been pushed back several times since it was first presented at the Feb. 1 council meeting. The council addressed it again two weeks later and came up with a list of questions for the event organizers.
Those included a security plan, a CBD vendor at last year's event, and on-stage entertainment. Organizers agreed to exclude the vendor this year and not allow for tipping or donations to be made on stage.
As for security, the organization is working with police on a plan. Other concerns include sanitary facilities, alcohol permit and tent sizes, all of which are being addressed or have been by Naples Pride.
Naples Pride Fest has been held since 2017.